Monday, July 29, 2013

The Great Indian Tirtha Yatra

Every religion believes soulfully in visiting their holy shrines, searching for their faith and their moral and spiritual significance. I am a Hindu so I wouldn't talk about other religions but, I really want to talk about mine. I want to talk about our religious tradition of Tirtha Yatra or any pilgrimage that a Hindu religiously follow.

Unlike other religions, in Hinduism, it is not mandatory or a must-do activity, however it is said, if you could afford it, you must.

India is a land of culture, religions, faith and ritual practices. While this practice varies among different sects of Hindu religion itself, there are many temples located at Ganges and Yamuna river, which are visited by thousands of Hindus every year.

The journey can be vaguely explained in few lines, but they vary depending on the pilgrim's social and financial status.

For a rich man, the yatra would be something like this - He buys an airline ticket to the nearest airport, hires a car, a horse, a cart or even people to carry him to the temple, whichever is fit for his comfort level and then pays the amount needed for him to be considered VIP enough. The wealth buys him the privilege to praise his lord without waiting in the lines. He worships his lord and leaves more money in the daan-peti (charity box). He boards the next available flight to his hometown and thus complete his Tirtha Yatra without an ounce of distress.

For a middle-class man, the yatra would be something like this - Years before the yatra,  he starts planning his trip. He plans out the expenses and follows an agenda to save for the same. A middle-class man probably have the liability to take his parents, spouse as well as children to the holy shrine. So 'savings' here means working his ass off. After ages, he finally can afford the pilgrimage and proceeds to meet his lord. He travels through crowded trains, buses, tricycles or on his feet. Even on his journey, his mind is continously calculating the math of money. He waits hours and hours in the lines, bending his knees and wiping his sweat. He climbs thousands of steps on risky slopes. He shivers while covered with blankets at night. He probably cuts on his meals to save as much money as he could, after all he also have to keep adding money to his piggy-bank which is labelled "for god".
After all these pains, which he considers are meant for lucky people like him, who gets to visit the yatra, he finally is close to his God. He approaches to face the idol, however to his dismay he is rushed and pushed by the pundits asking him to move fast - "Aage badho, aage badho, piche bohot badi line hai."
He fast-forwards his hands and hastily drops every garlands, coconuts, flowers and money he had accumulated. He moves out without even saying the first two words of his prayers or seeing in the eyes of his God for whom he traveled hundreds of miles.
When things get worse, these people are often trapped in the horrendous gimmicks of nature like snowfall, earthquakes, floods or landslides. Hundreds of people loses their lives each year facing horrible deaths, like buried under snow or being crushed by rocks.

For a poor man - Well, lets just say they are lucky if they even get to eat their daily bread. Tirtha Yatra is a luxury they can't afford.

This is not how it always works, but I hope you got the gist of how worshiping ones lord depends significantly on the economical or rather financial status of a Hindu. This is not just the imagery of famous shrines. You go to a temple like SiddhiVinayak in Mumbai and you would witness the same story.

Temples are the homes of God and they are meant to comfort any man regardless of any factor. They are meant to give peace to human soul and souls are neither rich nor poor. Many banners have been raised, movies has been made and thousands of articles have been written on  how temples and shrines are nothing, but an easy business these days.

I am not here to tell that.

I want to put a different perspective here.

Why do we pray? Or go to temples?

To ask for forgiveness, to ask for health and wealth, to thank for our daily bread, to ask for the well-being of our families and so on. In a nutshell, one prays or goes to a temple to have a conversation with their God. How can one say, God is "omnipresent" and at the same time search and reach for a particular place to have that conversation? Why do they consider some places worthier than the other? Unless one believes that the value of God depends on the structure and quality of their idols and temples, this makes no sense.

This just means that the Sai-baba at Shirdi is greater and worthier because he is made of gold compared to the one made out of earthen clay, across the street! Even though Shirdi is regarded as home to Sai-baba, a true believer would never debate on his presence everywhere and would not be a part of  making the Shirdi temple, one of the richest temple organization in the world. An organization where again, the devotion of a worshiper is classified according to his economical and financial status.

For example, see this-
More god for more money!

Secondly, let's just say, you wont agree to the crap I am talking about and despite of all the discomforts, physically and financially, you are still willing to visit your holy shrine to please the lord.
How would the lord be pleased for the 30 seconds of your prayer in front of him while the other 20-40 hours towards him were only spent worrying about everything else, but him.
Agree or not, while we are on our way to these shrines, we often spend our time cursing the mother nature for odd weather conditions, cursing the expensive food sold at the carts, we curse the flower vendors for selling a small garland for 50 rupees, curse the "GOD" for  making us not rich enough to opt for a better mode of transport, curse the sloped roads that made us puke from the bus window, curse the people pulling our arm to make us remove our shoes at their shops, still half of the time worrying about our shoes being stolen, curse the dry coconut we had to buy because they are the stale ones bought by the vendors from the temple itself, curse other worshipers for pushing us and thus we spend our so called "holy pilgrimage" thinking about everything, but our purpose and our God. Even though people chant and sing the prayers loudly while marching towards the shrine, there are a millions things that are going around in their minds.

So why not cut this crap and wake up in the morning, take the lord's name, walk few steps to the temple in the neighborhood and pray to the omnipresent lord who is everywhere in every corner. No one is denying you to take his name on your bed. That works too. Remember, he is omnipresent?
Whose prayer you think would reach the right place? The distracted one's in the yatra or a fresh, contended, happy being's on his bed.

I am an Agnostic, however that has nothing to do with my thoughts above. I respect everyone's opinion and everything I said was said from a viewpoint of a theist.
These shrines were made in the olden days when you didn't have to pay material fees to worship the Gods. That was the true reason behind its purity and sanctity.

Today, it is just a corrupted rupee (who am I kidding? Have you ever seen the temples here in America? The pretty charity boxes with "$" sign on it?) printing machine. It has become so popular as easy money that it is attracting international investors. Westerners are investing in building lovely exotic temples in India to scoop out the Roohpeeys!!

It is SO wrong because money is earned by toying with people's emotions. Right from selling the hair of devotees to foreign countries to hiring professionals to deal with the temple income, everything is wrong. How can one not see all this? STOP being a part of it.

Think twice of the people actually in need, before dropping a note in to a daan-peti or showering idols with milk and oils or investing in tons of garlands. If you really want to praise the lord help his people, feed a hungry, cover a shivering man with a blanket, provide shelter to a homeless, adopt a poor child, give him education, but not this.

There are no malls in heaven.



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25 comments:

  1. This post was like someone spoke my mind. I liked it very much. :-)

    There is saying in Tamil, "Saami varam kuduthalum, poosari varam kudukka maatenguthu" which roughly translates to "The priest doesn't bless you even if the God does" :P

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    1. Thank you Kanthu. I hope to have spoken a lot of people's mind. :)
      About that verse, I understood 'Swami'. Haha.
      But,yeah. A well said verse.

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  2. Very true. Pure with ur mind n heart is good prayer!!! I always help needy who is ha handicap or old age !!!

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    1. I think I have seen that too. :)

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    1. Thank you. Your picture here = hot stuff!! =D

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  4. Good write up and Well said !!! True

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  5. well...worth a read...its the need of the hour to spread these eye-opener post to the public...so I'd like to share it on my Facebook page of my blog(link on right panel on my blog), if you don't have any objection.

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    1. Sure. My pleasure.
      Thank you for dropping by. :)

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    2. thanks...here's the link
      https://www.facebook.com/cynosureismused

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  6. I am a Christian and Atheists who bashes religious people with senseless debates annoys me to the infinite level.
    This is the most sensible article from a non-religious person, that I have come across in a long time. You made sense and expressed your opinions without degrading religious Hindus.
    I am an American so I do not know how charity works in India but, I am sure going to think how I donate henceforth after reading this. - George.

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    1. Thank you George. We need more open minded religious people like you who are ready to at least give a thought to other people's opinion.

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  7. I love how you make your points without pressing on anyone toes...too hard. Great article

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  8. I often visit Siddhivinayak and Shirdi but, I prefer visiting on odd days instead of a particular poornima or some tithi.. that gives me and my family a chance of a peaceful prayer without the pandas shoving us out. I remember as a child I with my parents and relatives visited Tarakeshwar Temple, Kolkata and I was both horrified and amused with the experience. Unlike the queue systems in other famous temples.. this one was free for people to be on their own (hopefully in these years they have changed)... and we were trapped within a huge swamp of humans...we were stuck somewhere in the middle of the temple; a good 10 feet from the idol, to which we never reached... and the hired pandit offered puja on our behalf right in the middle of the crowd with loads of nudging, poking, pushing ... I kept laughing as the pandit who was by now swaying with the crowd kept chanting his mantras and asked us to repeat with him. That day I knew.. for me prayer is not visiting a temple.. and certainly not this way.. I pray at home.. thank the Lord...and visit a famous temple only for the kind of history it carries or just cause I like being there.

    And girl.. truly.. I see why we should be blog buddies... You echoed my thoughts right from the first word. :D

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    1. I have had horrible experience as well. My parents aren't religious, they are spiritual but, I've been to numerous such shrines and temples with friends or relatives and I can't remember having a peaceful moment. Owning to my tiny structure I was dragged, stuffed, pushed and suffocated so much that when I think of temples, I get nightmares.
      These shouldn't be the way to pray. Anyway, thank you for seeing that. :)

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  9. Agreed right from the beginning till the end.When i was around 4-5 years old i used to religiously visit the temple in front of our house very morning and evening i don't know why i did that,i haven't figured that out yet.It was same for around three years continuously and then something in me snapped i suppose and i stopped going.
    Now i am an atheist.I believe there is some power which ocntrols and guides but i don't name it anything.It is the energy of you,me and everyone combined which revolves the world around the happiness and sadness all the affect of it.
    Channels of thought..you provide your readers with something different every time :)

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    1. There are still many people who visit just because of tradition. I've done that myself too.
      Thank you Alcina for the compliment but, there are still a dozen of things left to come out.

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    2. I'll be waiting to pounce on :)

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  10. Woah, That is some post. Extremely well written. I agree, there is madness going on out there in the name of religion and worship.

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    1. I know. My Facebook home page look more like a religious website than a social media site. How to make people understand that a like or a share is not going to create miracles!

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  11. I totally agree, corruption has finally touched god too. I really dont understand where all that money goes to :/ people foolishly drop money in the temples! Instead they could feed the needy!

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  12. I just got a check for $500.

    Many times people don't believe me when I tell them about how much money you can get by taking paid surveys online...

    So I show them a video of myself getting paid $500 for doing paid surveys to set the record straight once and for all.

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